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Wieden, Beyond 'Halftime'

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It takes a fool to create something ingenious, says Chrysler global marketing chief Olivier François. In other words, if you’re blissfully unaware of boundaries, you may create something extraordinary—say, an epic Super Bowl ad starring an iconic actor that’s gritty and inspirational and even becomes part of the national dialogue around the U.S. presidential election.

Wieden + Kennedy’s “It’s Halftime in America” with Clint Eastwood—which aired, naturally, in the first break after the second quarter of February’s game—was an instant classic, and an exceptional blend of star power and humanity. Against Eastwood’s rasp, images of “people who are out of work” and “hurting” gave way to the determined faces of men assembling Chryslers. The balance of dark and light and Eastwood’s gravitas disarmed cynics and turned even hardened ad critics into believers.

“That final punch line where they say, ‘It’s halftime in America, and the second half is about to begin,’ I was about ready to go out and try to enlist in the Marines,” says Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University. “It was very rousing. It was very patriotic without being jingoistic.”

“Halftime” and other work on Wieden’s global reel this year represent advertising at its best—words and images that spark emotions and transcend categories. Surprise is another key element—making, for example, a chubby boy jogging on an open road the focal point of “Jogger,” a Nike ad that aired during the Olympics. Likewise, the shop featured moms not athletes in “Best Job,” an ad that marked Procter & Gamble’s first global sponsorship of the Olympics and celebrated the little things that mothers do as their children grow into Olympians. The two-minute ad won the Emmy for outstanding commercial. Other creative highlights this year include “Beach” for Southern Comfort, “Crack the Code” for Heineken and “Shake on It” for ESPN.

Even for a premiere creative agency like Wieden—Adweek’s Global Agency of the Year for 2012—this was an exceptional year. The most memorable Super Bowl ad. The Emmy (its fourth straight). The biggest campaign ever for Heineken, celebrating the brand’s global sponsorship of the James Bond flick Skyfall. A whopping 45 Lions at Cannes (including 29 out of its Portland, Ore., headquarters, making it Agency of the Year). Banner wins like Tesco, Sony, Facebook and American Express Open. New business and organic growth from existing accounts fueled a swift rebound from the loss of Nokia and Target, in 2011 and early ’12, respectively. The agency ends this year with global revenue growth of 5 percent to an estimated $294 million. U.S. revenue also grew 5 percent, to $205 million.

Among its peers, independent agency Wieden, now in its 30th year, inspires both pride and envy. After all, in the past four years, Wieden has won an average of 29 Lions a year. Agency co-founder and global president Dan Wieden attributes that creative consistency to building a culture that’s “just more fun than you can believe and harder than hell. That generates ideas, great enthusiasm and new ways of looking at old issues.”

Much of Wieden’s standout work in 2012 centered around major events. In late 2011, Chrysler’s François needed an execution to fit a halftime buy during the Super Bowl, perennially the most watched program on TV. Chrysler had made a big splash in the previous big game, casting Eminem in a starring role for the launch of the “Imported from Detroit” campaign. This time, François wanted Wieden Portland to make Chrysler’s turnaround feel part of a national comeback. Hence, the casting of an American icon, who, after some initial hesitation, signed on. The agency enlisted poet Matthew Dickman and novelist Smith Henderson to help write the script.

“Powerful spot,” tweeted Obama adviser David Axelrod shortly after the two-minute ad aired Feb. 5. The next day, Republican strategist Karl Rove asserted that “Halftime” was payback for the federal government bailout of the auto industry. But even Rove admitted the ad was “extremely well done.”

Parodies ensued, including a series of Saturday Night Live clips in which Bill Hader, as Eastwood, squinted and railed about presidential candidates, China and Mexicans. “If those kinds of things happen,” says Wieden, laughing, “you know you just hit a home run.”

Going into the London Summer Olympics, P&G global marketing chief Marc Pritchard wanted to give the “Thank you, mom” campaign a global makeover. Previous ads, from Wieden Portland, focused on U.S. athletes (P&G sponsored the American team at the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver, Canada). Back then, Wieden global chief operating officer Dave Luhr had challenged Pritchard to create “world-class marketing” for a “world-class event.” This time Pritchard pushed Wieden to “surprise us.” He approved the moms-on-the-job concept on the spot. “When you see something that makes your spine tingle, you’re onto something,” says Pritchard. “I knew immediately that this was a winner.”

While the maternal message is universal, local customs vary. That’s why one scene shows a Chinese mom watching her daughter compete on television. In China, moms don’t attend such events, explains John Jay, Wieden’s global ecd.

“Best Job,” from CDs Danielle Flagg and Karl Lieberman, launched in April, and the global push is on track to generate $500 million in incremental sales gains across 34 brands, including Tide, Crest and Pampers, says Pritchard. One of every three people on YouTube has shared the two-minute ad.

In the spring, the challenge facing Wieden’s Amsterdam office in marketing around Heineken’s sponsorship of Skyfall was to build on the brand’s existing “Man of the World” campaign. The campaign’s 30-ish leading man gets most of the screen time in the 90-second spot, in which bad guys chase the hero through a train full of colorful characters. The star of Skyfall, Daniel Craig, does have a cameo, though.

The ad broke in September and is still running in 34 countries. It is the centerpiece of a broader sponsorship push backed by an unprecedented $70 million in media spending, according to Sandrine Huijgen, global communications director at Heineken. Huijgen, who also works with Wieden’s offices in New York; São Paolo; and Delhi, India, says of agency leaders like Amsterdam ecd’s Eric Quennoy and Mark Bernath: “They push things and I think it works well with Heineken in terms of the personality of the brand. You know, we just want to do things that are different, and Wieden is very, very good at that.”

That reputation led Facebook to approach the agency in October 2011. The social media giant wanted to launch its first brand campaign to celebrate its upcoming billion-user milestone. Facebook execs worked with a small group at the agency including CDs Flagg, Lieberman and Eric Baldwin to develop “The Things That Connect Us,” a 90-second ad that broke in October and has generated massive buzz (not all of it positive) which Facebook shared via its own network. Asked about negative reactions to the spot, Facebook brand marketing chief Rebecca Van Dyck says, “I’m not afraid of that at all.” She adds, “It’s important for iconic brands. I think that’s what Wieden + Kennedy actually does well.”

Tesco’s Matt Atkinson likes what he sees thus far in Wieden’s London office, which, led by managing director Neil Christie, beat TBWA, VCCP and JWT in July to claim one of the most coveted accounts in the U.K. The retailer, which each year produces more than 1,000 ads and spends about $175 million in media, last month broke a campaign that centers around a familiar object in England this time of year: the holiday hat.

Wieden brings “an ability to help you express yourself in the new world,” says Atkinson, Tesco’s group marketing and chief digital officer. “That was what we were looking for.” 

Holiday Cheers vs. Jeers as Pennsylvania Lottery Remakes 20-Year-Old Christmas Ad

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Nothing says happy holidays like killing off a much-loved old commercial and replacing it with something almost identical yet totally different. The Pennsylvania Lottery has updated its "12 Days of Christmas" commercial from 1992, retaining the story line and most of the original audio track, but shooting in high definition with a new cast to give the ad—a local yuletide staple since its debut—a modern look and feel. It's either an unexpected gift or a lump of coal, depending on your point of view. Both versions are equally schlocky (see below), following an ol' codger named Joe one snowy night as he hands out lottery tickets while carolers perform the aforementioned holiday song with modified lyrics extolling the virtues of gambling. How festive. Most fans/detractors point to the coffee-shop guy's overacting on the line "What a great gift!" as the defining moment of both iterations. I heartily agree. (Dude, lay off the eggnog!) In the update, a copy of Newsweek is clearly visible at the newsstand. They might want to edit that out next year. Client marketing director Connie Bloss, who worked at former lottery shop Tierney Communications when the original ad was created, tells the AP: "We meticulously examined each frame to match the outfits, props, location and other small details. We really wanted to get it right." I guess it was easier than starting from scratch.

Old version:

New version:

Game Maker Kills App That Let You Mock-Assassinate Your Facebook Friends

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Japanese video-game maker Square Enix tried to advertise its game Hitman: Absolution by allowing you to pretend to put a hit on your Facebook friends for a variety of appalling reasons. The application, created by advertising agency Ralph, was pulled after just one article by online gamer mag Rock Paper Shotgun. The app let you select identifying features of your friends as reasons to threaten them on Facebook—among them, her awful makeup, ginger hair, annoying laugh, strange odor, big ears, muffin top, hairy legs and "small tits." You could then select reasons to kill her—for example, "She's cheating on her partner!"—resulting in a lovely Facebook post sent directly to that friend that said "I hope you get killed by a hitman!" and linked to a nice video of the main character from the game shooting the crap out of that friend's profile picture. The concept itself could possibly have been done in a fun, less bullying way, but the execution shows how impressively sexist you can be with nothing more than a drop-down box. To be fair, you could also be sexist against dudes and put a hit out on your male friends for having a small penis. The link to the application no longer works, and the company issued an apology in less than a day. Quick work, PR department! Now, somebody fire the copywriter.

Ad of the Day: Cisco

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On Friday, Cisco CEO John Chambers met with financial analysts to outline the company's ambitions to become the world's leading IT player by expanding its services and software offerings. Today, Cisco takes that Wall Street message global in a new repositioning campaign, themed "Tomorrow starts here," from Goodby, Silverstein & Partners.

Even as Cisco signals a corporate makeover, the pitch brings the company back to its roots after recent confusing attempts to make itself more of a consumer brand in spots featuring Juno actress Ellen Page. Gone now is "The human network," Cisco's tagline of the past six years and reference to its position as the largest manufacturer of computer networking equipment. The new campaign takes a larger view of Internet possibilities made real by all those routers and switches.

Financial observers liken Cisco's current shift to IBM's transformation from a mainframe manufacturer to a provider of software, services and hardware, and this spot has the aesthetic feel and tone of Big Blue's "Smarter Planet" commercials from Ogilvy. Cisco's research indicates that 37 billion new things will be connected to the Internet in the next eight years, and 2.5 billion people will log on for the first time. Goodby's TV commercial underscores that connectivity. The young narrator predicts that in the future, "Trees will talk to networks that will talk to scientists about climate change. Cars will talk to road sensors that will talk to stoplights about traffic efficiency." The print work features outtakes from the spot, and in an inspired detail for business-to-business advertising, an augmented reality app allows smartphone users to learn more specifics about the Internet connections behind the images.

Cisco CMO Blair Christie says the strategy speaks not only to the changes under way at Cisco but to a larger evolution. "We're seeing one of the biggest market transitions in our business," she says. "We're calling it 'The Internet of everything.' It's the intelligent connection of people, process, data and things to the Internet."



CREDITS
Client: Cisco Systems
Spot "Tomorrow Starts Here"

Agency: Goodby, Silverstein & Partners, San Francisco
Partner: Rich Silverstein
Executive Creative Directors: Rick Condos and Hunter Hindman
Art Director: Tyler Magnusson
Copywriter: Matt Rivitz
Executive Producer: Hilary Coate

Production Company: Directors Bureau
Director: Mike Mills
Director of Photography: Jakob Ihre
Executive Producer: Lisa Margulis

CLIENT
Chief Marketing Officer: Blair Christie
Vice President, Global Marketing and Branding: Michele Bogdan
Senior Director of Global Advertising, Media and Sponsorships: Julia Mee
Senior Managers, Global Advertising: Chris Nordstrom, Kathleen Watson

The Spot: Gifts That Do

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IDEA: In so many holiday ads, the moment of gift giving is the culmination of the journey—an easily exploited emotional high point for those giving and receiving. In Best Buy's new spot (running as a :30 and a :60), it's just the beginning of the story. The focus isn't the technology inside the latest gadgets but the amazing, unexpected things you can do with it—things the retailer, while serving as a knowledgeable guide, could never have predicted. Crispin Porter + Bogusky scoured the country looking for real people who have done inspiring things with gifts they received—finding, among many others, Claire Jantzen, a 13-year-old digital photographer; and Brian Jones, who used his laptop to help turn the house from A Christmas Story into a museum. The theme is: "What will your gift do?" "It's a simple message," said CP+B creative director Dave Cook. "It pushes people to think about giving in a way that could actually lead to something great."

TALENT: The people range from grand to goofy. Robert Nay used his laptop to start his own gaming company at age 14. Jamie Moran, a surfer, created a wave-finding app. Ryan Rusnak was so enthralled by his TV that he never wanted to leave the couch—so he built a machine that launches beverages at him from across the room. "Telling real stories was important," said CP+B senior integrated producer Ramon Nuñez. "It makes us feel like, 'Hey, I could do that too.' " The agency and the directors, Emmett and Brendan Malloy, used agency JLA to find their subjects. "We didn't want to get too heavy, but we also wanted our stories to have substance … [to be] both relatable and entertaining," said Nuñez. At the end, a Best Buy employee, flanked by four others, makes the pitch straight to camera.



COPYWRITING: The gifters and giftees split a single sentence in each scene. "My gift turned my daughter…" starts Jantzen's mom, and Claire finishes: "… into an Instagram sensation." "Splitting the lines was just one of many deliveries we tried," said interactive copywriter James Beikmohamadi. The secret was to boil down each line to "its simplest, most compelling form—something that would explain their innovation quickly but not have it be too straight," added senior copywriter Jim Heekin. Jantzen, Nay and Jones are also the subjects of longer videos posted online. In scripting those spots, said Heekin, "we focused more on what questions to ask them versus what precise lines they would read."

ART DIRECTION/FILMING: The Malloys shot on location. "They come from a documentary background, and we knew their insights and experience would help us honor these real stories," said executive creative director Steve Babcock. Each shoot had its obstacles. "We went from being out on a boat in the ocean, where Emmett and the makeup lady got very seasick but kept on working, to inside the Christmas Story house in Cleveland, where it started raining as we started our exterior shot," said associate creative director Jamin Duncan. A 4D camera and RED camera got a mix of formal and candid footage. The store shots were done at a Best Buy in Palm Springs, Calif., over two nights. The Rusnak scene was tough. "I think there was one take where he nailed the line and caught the soda," said Duncan.

SOUND: The soundtrack, "The Bright Side" by Tim Myers, "fits the feeling that the spot evokes," Beikmohamadi said. "It has a nice bed without lyrics and an uplifting vocal."

MEDIA: National broadcast and cable through Dec. 24, supported by cinema spots, rich and standard banners, including YouTube and Xbox, and radio.

THE SPOT:


The three long-form videos:






CREDITS
Client: Best Buy
Spot: "Holiday Montage"
Agency: Crispin Porter + Bogusky
Partner/Worldwide Chief Creative Officer: Rob Reilly
Executive Creative Director: Steve Babcock
Creative Directors: Dave Cook, Rich Tlapek, Matt Fischvogt
Associate Creative Directors: Alvaro Ramos, Jamin Duncan
Senior Art Director: Asan Aslam
Senior Copywriters: Jim Heekin, Peter Majarich
Senior Interactive Copywriter: Moon Yang
Interactive Copywriter: James Beikmohomadi
Design Art Director: Jeff Hunter
Associate Design Director: Scott Pridgen
Group Planning Director: Benny Thomas
Senior Cog: Omar Quinones
Senior Integrated Producer: Ramon Nuñez
Integrated Producer: PJ Haarsma
Jr. Integrated Producer: Jamie Slade
Production Company & City: HSI, Culver City, Calif.
Directors: Emmett Malloy, Brendan Malloy
Executive Producer (Production Co): Kim Dellara
Producer (Production Co): Caleb Dewart
Bidding Producer: Mari Geraci
Head of Production: Doron Kauper
Post Production & City: Method, Los Angeles
Post Producer: Paula Jimenez
Editor: Kevin Zimmerman
Editing Producer: Leslie Tabor
Sound Design Company & City: Lime Studios, Santa Monica, Calif.
Animation Company & City: Buck Studios, Los Angeles
Group Account Director: Scot Beck
Account Director: Adrienne Walpole
Management Supervisor: JP Nissenberg
Content Supervisor: Carrie Frash
Content Manager: Nick Larkin
Assistant Content Manager: Dave Ellerbee
Business Affairs Manager: Lisa Gillies

No Liftoff (Yet) for Launchpad

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Red Bull just gambled (and won big time) on backing daredevil Felix Baumgartner’s supersonic sky dive on YouTube, but a crowdsourcing stunt may prove to be a more daunting challenge.

Red Bull introduced Launchpad, the crowdsourced contest, in February. Instead of going to its usual stable of star athletes, it asked regular people to submit stunt ideas and vote for them on Facebook. The prize: a chance to see your stunt executed, plus $5,000.

The contest attracted more than 220 submissions and almost 325,000 votes, per Red Bull insiders. The company even ran promos of the contest with popular YouTube videos of its sponsored celebrity athletes including Ryan Doyle, who runs across city roofs (200,000 views).

The winning entry came from Joe Ridler, associate creative director at Chicago packaging agency BurgoUSA. His idea was to have sky divers in wingsuits race through an airborne obstacle course. The social buzz he got played no small part in his selection. A Twitter account he set up for the stunt, @RedBullTopGun, drew 838 followers, while a Facebook page attracted 1,400 likes.

But since announcing a winner and posting video on its Launchpad site in September, Red Bull has gone silent. No time line has been set for staging the stunt and almost no fresh references to the contest show up on Twitter or Facebook. Among bloggers, the once-lively buzz about the contest and winner’s wild idea is petering out. AKQA, Red Bull’s agency on the campaign, referred questions to the client. Red Bull had no comment.

Industry pros experienced in crowdsourced marketing say working with fans who are unpaid amateurs is different than creating content with professionals and celebrities. Crowdsourcing is a collaboration, they say, and the fans need attention and interaction to keep them interested.

Jon Yokogawa, vp of consumer engagement for ad agency interTrend, said consumers are hungry for something that they can get personally involved in. This past summer his agency created a crowdsourced Web series for AT&T, “Away We Happened,” that grabbed an unexpected 6 million YouTube views over six weeks.

“A big advantage in crowdsourced marketing is the ability to see brand ambassadors appear and actually defend your brand by endorsing it or pointing out product benefits, via real-life experiences,” Yokogawa said. “It’s about having the crowd interact with the brand, rather than [passively] watch or get distracted by the entertainers or athletes.”

It’s understandable that Red Bull wants to tap those advantages. But the company can only hope that when the user-generated sky dive race takes place, the thousands of contest participants and their social friends—who initially had some skin in the game—will still care.

Preteen Rapper and Dance Crew Recruited for Kids' Tablet Spot

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Precocious kiddie talent is always a reliably entertaining route in youth marketing. Our favorite example is probably the crazy Weetabix spot with then-9-year-old British street-dance phenom Arizona Snow. Now, a new spot for Fuhu's Nabi2 kids' tablet enlists not just dancers but a budding rapper to deliver the pitch. The commercial, by agency mOcean, features a rap by 10-year-old Lil P-Nut (aka Benjamin Flores Jr.) and a dance routine by The Art of Teknique—two 11-year-olds and a 10-year-old who competed on America's Got Talent last year. Lil P-Nut doesn't actually appear in the ad—that's the Art of Teknique kids lip-syncing the lyrics. Rapping and dancing would seem to have little to do with using a tablet, but Fuhu says it's a broader metaphor about the "art of genius"—that it enlisted kids who excel in music and dance to tell the brand's story about helping kids achieve their best in learning, playing and growing. Credits below.

CREDITS
Client: Fuhu
Product: Nabi2 tablet

Agency: mOcean
Executive Creative Director: Christianne Brooks
Director of Client Services: Mike Braue
Copywriters: Erik Moe, C. Dubb
Assistant Account Executive: Shira Shane

Production Company: mOcean
Director: Peter McKeon
Director of Photography: Kevin Sarnoff
Executive Producer: Teresa Antista
Line Producer: Don Anderson
Producer: Andrew Wright
Editing House: mOcean
Editor: Philippe Bergerioux
Producer: Andrew Wright

Ad of the Day: Lacoste

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You are walking down the street. You decide you don't like the color of your shirt. You swipe at your chest like it's a touch screen. Your shirt changes color, and you are happy. You are not on acid. You are in the future, as imagined by Lacoste.

This is a novelty ad celebrating the 80th anniversary of the invention of the tennis brand's iconic polo shirt. At its core, it's just another fashion spot, heavy on the atmosphere, projecting feel-good-youthful-sporty cool. It's more fun to watch than most fashion ads, as it weaves in a conceptual thread suggesting that one day in the not-too-distant future, we'll be able to customize out shirts on the fly. Take a step back, and it's decidedly goofy.

Mostly, it's another testament to how much the iPhone has defined the zeitgeist. Five years ago, the digital effects in this spot would have read as cheesy sci-fi at best, and weirdly psychotic at worst. Now, the fundamentally ridiculous clothes-fondling gestures that serve as the spot's linchpin aren't only part of the physical vernacular—they're a commonly accepted status symbol. The ad's subtext: Today, only Neanderthals don't have touch-screen smartphones. Someday, only Neanderthals won't have touch-screen polo shirts.

A generation of affluent, tech-obsessed digital natives won't even have to blink twice to suspend disbelief while watching the commercial. And its chameleonic effects are aimed squarely at those same millennials, notoriously perceived as fickle, by a brand that doesn't really ever seem to change that much. Lacoste wants those kids—geeky preps of tomorrow—to know it has the shirts of tomorrow.

Of course, concepts for digital clothing abound. Earlier this year, whiskey brand Ballantine's actually designed a prototype of an Internet-connected T-shirt with an LED screen on the front. Macy's and P. Diddy's Sean John brand are selling a $223 digital sweater with a miniature screen on the sleeve. Not that any of this will really catch on—it's all, to varying degrees, absurd. But it's also further evidence that non-digital brands feel the need to use digital gimmicks to prove their continuing relevance in a tech-obsessed world, even as brands that actually are cutting edge work to prove their relevance to the physical world of yore.

Now, Lacoste just needs to figure out how to actually mass-produce the tricks it's pitching. Or maybe, shirts will always just be shirts.



CREDITS
Client: Lacoste
Agency: Mnstr, Paris
Director: Fleur & Manu

Bad Gifts Make Good Comedy in Georgia Lottery's Holiday Ads

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You know how, when someone gives you a horrible gift, you lie and say it's the perfect thing? Don't you wish could just exclaim, "Are you seriously trying to insult me with this?" Or, "You know what makes the baby Jesus cry? This gift." BBDO's new holiday scratchers ad for the Georgia Lottery does away with seasonally enforced insincerity and lets the giftees say what they're thinking, with amusing results. Five friends gather around a fireplace for a gift exchange, and they're all disappointed, to say the least. There's the insult gift—a books about kittens that tells everyone you're single. There's the style disaster—a sweater that looks like a mountain of cotton candy. And there are the general "What were you thinking?" gifts that "accidentally" get left behind or end up straight in the trash. In the end, they agree to buy scratchers and never do something like that again. Thankfully, none of them seems to realize that lottery tickets are the crappiest gifts of all. What a blessing. The spot is part of a series, but only this one is online so far.

Axe Pillow Ensures You'll Never Have to Snuggle With a Woman Again

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We're all familiar with Axe's low-humming sexism, but DDB Latina Puerto Rico has gone through the looking glass with this idea. The Morning After Pillow might be the most egregious cure for a fake problem since Listerine invented halitosis. Is it really that bad to be kept in bed by a good-looking woman all day, especially when the alternatives are playing tennis or video games? Both of those things suck compared to cuddling. I know it's a joke, but still. Plus, that pillow isn't even a real pillow. It's inflatable. It's might as well be a bath toy. Spring for memory foam next time, you classless goons.

Game of Thrones Takes Over HBO's Manhattan Storefront

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Christmakwanzakah comes once a year, but dire wolf bookends are forever. And if you're a Game of Thrones fanatic, that piece of swag may be a must-have. HBO, like most entertainment companies, hopes to spark an end-of-the-year buying frenzy for its licensed merchandise. Broad swords make fantastic stocking stuffers! In the case of the hugely popular (but not currently airing) drama Game of Thrones, HBO is drawing attention to the period piece with a product-heavy window display at its flagship Manhattan store. Against an LED screen of the show's forbidding White Wall, fans can ogle a Daenerys Targaryen sculpted bust (with baby dragon, without boobies), a paperweight shaped like the series' namesake kingly chair, and vinyl bobbleheads that look considerably less threatening than the TV characters. For those still mourning the death of Khal Drogo, there's a signature mug from whence to drink some mead (or fancy coffee when no one's looking). Until Season 3 launches in March, this stuff is all fans have to keep them warm. (See: House Stark fleece throw.) That, and this recently released teaser video, which shows filming locations in Ireland, Morocco and Iceland.

Ad of the Day: Google

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I search, therefore I am.

That could be the tagline for Google Zeitgeist, the company's annual year-in-review package, which gazes back at the previous 12 months and ranks people, places and things—country by country—based on how many people searched for them on Google.

It's a fascinating data set. Who doesn't love a good list, after all? It's also a giant popularity contest, complete with rampant evidence of our collective trashy side. The leaking of Kate Middleton's topless photos was the year's second most-popular "event," behind Hurricane Sandy but ahead of the London Olympics? If you say so! Here Comes Honey Boo Boo was more interesting than American Idol or Homeland? I guess! More than 1 trillion search queries can't be wrong, after all.

The lists are one thing. Putting the data in motion is another. As it did in 2011, the task of translating Zeitgeist into video form this year fell to creative agency Whirled. The resulting spot, below, is supremely satisfying in the way that all such videos are. Distilling a whole year into less than three minutes, packaging the experiences of the world's 7 billion people into a tidy few dozen images—it's irresistible. It's all in there—birth, death, rebirth, the peaks and valleys of human behavior, from hope and resilience to war and persecution. It gives order to everything based on human curiosity, and makes no judgments.

It should come as no surprise that the piece is bookended by Felix Baumgarter's triumphant leap to Earth from the edge of space back in October—the culmination of the Red Bull Stratos project. Ad people in particular should appreciate that placement. The year's most notably grand human achievement was also brand sponsored. How nice.

Whirled founder and creative director Scott Chan tells us a little about how the Zeitgeist video sausage is made: "It's a whole lot of homework and research. As cliché as it might sound, the process for me always starts on Jan. 1. I'm honestly thinking about how we can top ourselves without straying too far from the formula that people have grown to love over the years. Like, for example, I brought on viral remixer extraordinaire Luc Begeron (aka Zapatou), who has been making noise creating these epic supercuts using the best videos the Internet (world) has to offer."

"But things really kick off in late September. Together with the Search team at Google, we spend a solid couple of months reading, watching and cataloging to understand just what happened in the year so that we can figure out the story we want to tell. Then it's just a matter of fitting all the pieces of the puzzle (events) together to tell that story."

It may not be the whole story, but it's the most popular one.

These days, that counts for a lot.



CREDITS
Client: Google
Project: Zeitgeist
Agency: Whirled

Portrait: Digital Pulp

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Specs
Who (l. to r.) Partners Ron Fierman, president, CEO; Mitchell Caplan, managing director; Gene Lewis, creative director; Sarah Blecher, executive producer
What Digital ad agency
Where New York offices

Digital Pulp was founded in 1996 by a group of guys sitting under Ethernet cable dangling from the ceiling and surrounded by copies of Photoshop and Illustrator. Riding the Internet’s early wave, Digital Pulp expanded beyond developing websites to developing brands’ identities. With a combined 40 years of digital experience, its four partners now handle clients like Dartmouth College, Bausch + Lomb, IEEE and Sotheby’s. The agency recently won Pace University and the American Cancer Society as clients, along with Procter & Gamble’s Duracell Powermat, the first P&G brand to conduct direct-to-consumer online sales. 

 

YouTube's 20 Most Watched Ads of 2012

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Nike, Pepsi and Volkswagen, three global marketers that are old pros at creating blockbuster video content, produced the three most-watched commercials on YouTube this year, according to the video site's 2012 Ads Leaderboard—a list of top branded spots with at least as many organic views as paid views throughout the year.

Nike Football led the way with "My Time Is Now," and it certainly was the right time for the flashy, interactive Euro 2012 clip from Wieden + Kennedy, which has received almost 21 million views since its May release.

Pepsi MAX's five-minute "Uncle Drew" spot from The Marketing Arm, starring Kyrie Irving, was second with 18 million views, edging out Volkswagen's "The Bark Side" Super Bowl teaser from Deutsch/LA.

Automakers did very well overall, accounting for eight of the top 20 spots (nine if you count Hot Wheels) and six of the top 11.

The car ads were almost all Super Bowl spots—Honda (No. 5), VW (No. 6, separate from the teaser), Chrysler (No. 8), Audi (No. 10), Chevrolet (No. 11) and Toyota (No. 16)—showing how the big game can significantly goose online ad views. (Fiat's "House Arrest" with Charlie Sheen, at No. 18, was the only auto spot not tied to the Super Bowl.)

Nike added a second spot in the top 10—its entertaining showdown between Cristiano Ronaldo and Rafael Nadal finished at No. 9. Rounding out the top 10: Samsung's latest swat at Apple fanboys was No. 4; and GoPro's long-form video for its Hero3 camera was No. 7.

The top 20 spots feature a wide range of styles and themes—from comedies to dramas to mini documentaries and music videos—in varying lengths, from just 15 seconds up to five minutes. Also remarkable is the staying power of many of these spots, which continue to rack up impressive daily views many months after their release.

While it didn't crack the top 10, Old Spice continued its strong showing in viral video, placing four spots from Wieden + Kennedy in the top 20—the most of any marketer. Asked how the Procter & Gamble brand keeps its output so consistently compelling, client brand manager Jason Partin said it's about building on a legacy while tweaking the formula to keep it fresh. "We never lose sight of the guys that use Old Spice," Partin said. "They've come to love the brand and expect a certain level of entertainment from us, so we work hard to deliver on that."

W+K creative directors Jason Bagley and Craig Allen said the litmus test is simple. "We try to make ourselves laugh first and foremost, and hope that at least 12 other people think it's funny," they said in an email to Adweek. "So far that's worked."

They added: "We just try to come up with ideas that will make our producers want to kill us and threaten to quit every day. That's how we know we're on the right track. Also, we have a time machine that takes us into the future and tells us what will be successful. Some call it cheating. We call it 'not cheating.' "

Click below to see all 20 spots. And check back in 2013, when Adweek will be showcasing a monthly YouTube Ads Leaderboard highlighting each month's most successful spots.

Gallery: YouTube 2012 Ads Leaderboard

Paintball Gets Kid Friendly With the JT SplatMaster

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Behold this new kid's product—with national TV ads breaking this holiday—and try hard not to conjure the familiar refrain, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid!" It's called the JT SplatMaster, if that gives you any inkling of its intent. It's an at-home paintball gun made for boys 9 and up. What could possibly go wrong? It "accurately shoots up to 100-plus feet" and pelts its target with brightly colored gunk, "a first in its category," according to manufacturer Kee Action Sports. Hey, competing with Nerf ain't child's play, all right? The paintball-lite gun, for the record, shoots at a fraction of the force of a real one. Easily bruised? Play at your own risk. (There's actually a whole section on safety at the website.) The marketer, a first-time national TV advertiser, is spending about $2 million to hawk the blaster on channels like Nickelodeon, Nick at Nite, Disney XD, Cartoon Network and MTV (the latter for the man-children). The campaign is from ad agency Tierney in Philadelphia and emphasizes outdoor play and adventure rather than, say, a ride to the emergency room. (Goggles are sold separately, after all.) The only question remaining: Where can I get me one?

Ad of the Day: State Farm

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Last night, a long list of legendary musicians got together at Madison Square Garden to raise funds for Hurricane Sandy relief. The median age of the artists—a group that included such icons as Paul McCartney, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Joel, The Who and The Rolling Stones—was approximately 75. So, it was a welcome departure from the evening's geriatrics when State Farm reminded us about another important demographic affected by the superstorm: children.

In a spot from DDB Chicago and director Joe Pytka titled "State of Hope," State Farm interviews a classroom full of kids whose lives have been shaken by Sandy's devastation. But it's not the weeks without power and heat, the flooding or the damage to their homes that they're concerned with. It's the seaside amusement parks.

"I liked eating the cotton candy and licking my fingers," recalls one of the children, who could be out of the classroom scene in Annie Hall."The roller coaster was as big as the Empire State Building," adds a student with questionable depth perception. "My brother threw up," reports another. But thanks to Sandy, those days are over, the beaches eroded, the boardwalks broken, the roller coaster in Seaside Heights swept into the ocean.

But these resilient kids are already looking ahead, imagining a future with a new, bigger, better roller coaster. One with lots of loops. And maybe even a stronger foundation that can survive the apocalyptic weather we're stuck with for the remainder of our time on Earth. Because, in the wise words of State Farm, "Hope can never be washed away."



CREDITS
Client: State Farm
Agency: DDB Chicago
Director: Joe Pytka

Ad Agency Tests Snack Food's Allure on Mindless Human Lab Rats

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Australian mall rats dress up in mouse costumes and run on a giant wheel inside a cage in this latest installment of Clemenger BBDO's borderline sadistic "How far will you go for Fantastic Delites?" campaign for the flavored-rice-snack brand. Round and round they go, taking tumbles and battling exhaustion, egged on by a crowd and video messages on the screen of the snack dispenser: "Faster Faster Faster" and "Run Mousey Run." Those who generating enough speed earn a pack of Delites. If not, well, they were reduced to little more than sweaty vermin on public display. (It must've been hot inside those suits!)

"Yes, the people in the video are people who were in the mall," says agency director Erik de Roos. "We did announce through the Fantastic Delites Facebook page that another challenge was coming up, without actually disclosing what the challenge entailed. Beyond this, we relied on the general public's interest and desire to participate. Of course, in order to demonstrate to the general public what was involved, we had to show them. As such, we had one pre-determined person who kicked things off for us."

Why wasn't I invited? I've got my own whiskers and wheel. Anyway, the clip is a sequel to the agency and client's vending-machine video from a few months back, which saw folks dancing, genuflecting and pushing a button up to 5,000 times to earn free snacks. That video gotten more than 2.5 million views since June, and according to de Roos, it ranks as one of Australia's top viral videos of the year (though not, of course, the very top one).

The mouse video takes the concept of consumer challenges to a higher level of absurdity. It's fun and inventive, impossible to turn away from. Yet, doesn't it suggest we're all just lab animals trapped on the wheel of consumer culture? "The stunt certainly isn't intended as a metaphor," says de Roos. "It is purely a result of our campaign platform … the belief that our products taste so good, people will go to extremes to get their hands on them."

So … that sounds like we're doomed, right? We're mindless snack-slaves with no free will and should be thankful that the Mayan apocalypse is approaching to cleanse the planet of our presence? Is that what you're saying? "I don't think all hope is lost yet!" says de Roos. "People certainly went to extremes to get a free pack, but they were entertained at the same time. And we feel this is why the concept works: It is enjoyable for participants and spectators alike."

OK, I see your point. No harm, no foul. Everybody wins. The wheel's not a bad thing in the end. Smart way to spin it, mate.

Ad of the Day: Turkish Airlines

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I have a question: What possible Turkish Airlines flight could have both Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi on it? Are they taking advantage of round-trip tickets from Los Angeles to Istanbul with a convenient stopover in Buenos Aires? Are they going to the Olympics? Or are they going to that really awesome island in the Caribbean where only the extraordinarily wealthy and physically fit are allowed to visit? That is my suspicion.

This very cute spot from Turkish agency Alametifarika sees Bryant and Messi competing for a kid's affections à la Pixar's One Man Band, among others (which is not to say it's a ripoff, merely that it's a solid plot for a short subject). First, the ball handling (footling?), then the houses of cards, then the balloon animals … I kind of wanted to see where it would go next, but honestly, I'm with the kid. Plane flights are but fleeting; ice cream is eternal.

Great stuff here: the windmill on Messi's one-up house of cards; both guys grinning invitingly at the kid through the whole spot; the adorable child's teeth; and the seats! This really does make Turkish Airlines look like the most comfortable airline in the universe, not least because all the other passengers are blithely going about their business as though Kobe and Messi are on every flight they've ever taken, forever trying to impress some dumb kid and keeping normal people from sleeping or reading Stephen King.

Also, Kobe has great timing.

Incidentally, the ADR (automated dialogue replacement) on the flight attendant's voice would have been funny a year ago; now it makes me think she's related to Bane. Her voice is coming from everywhere!

And seriously, look at the number of YouTube on this thing: 57 million in less than two weeks. That is the combined power of soccer and basketball, which I hope to harness in the hybrid sport I have just invented, socketball.

I'll see you on Rich Guy Island.



CREDITS
Client: Turkish Airlines
Agency: Alametifarika
Creative Team: Emrah Karpuzcu, Kenan Unsal, Can Bilginer, Huseyin Sandik, Odisseas Sevsevme, Emre Abay, Nilufer Acar, Sertug Alptekin, Cagri Ark
Director: Marco Grandia
Production: Electric Zoo, Filmcolony, only925
Post Production: Ambassadors, Filimisleri

Make Your Own Skittles Ad on 'Create the Rainbow' Holiday Site

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I can make my own wacky Skittles holiday commercial on this Create the Rainbow site from BBDO Toronto and Jam3? Do I have to? Can't I just strangle myself with a string of festive lights instead? Users choose various characters, dialogue, settings and music and share the results with friends—who, if they have any self-respect, will hit delete before the "ad" comes to an end. I put scruffy slacker stereotype Travis and Funky Santa—a black guy in Claus garb who chuckles ominously and wishes everyone a "Happy Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah"—in an office hot tub filled with Skittles. Overall, the effort is kind of uninspired, and the DIY approach feels re-gifted from 2009. Where's that smoochin' walrus when you need him!? Way to waste the rainbow.

Ad of the Day: YouTube

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Imagine the YouTube video to end all YouTube videos—a relentlessly goofy, kitchen-sink montage that stuffs in layer upon layer of pop-culture references, inside jokes and quirky Internet stars.

For 2012's "Rewind," a look back at the year's biggest YouTube hits, YouTube made just that video. The clip includes more visual remixing and geeky-cool allusions than we could mention here (and surely, we're missing plenty). Suffice it to say, you might find—at the moment when Psy's "Gangnam Style" reprises at the clip's end in a mashup with Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe"—that your head might want to explode in the most shamefully delighted way conceivable.

Psy's horse-dancing smash hit serves as the thread that runs throughout, anchoring the more obscure references. Those include a cavalcade of niche YouTube sensations, appropriating broader cultural themes in the manner symbolic of the medium. Comedians KassemG and DailyGrace, respectively, spoof Olympian Ryan Lochte and Hunger Games character Katniss Everdeen. Mark and Anastasia Douglas of BarelyPolitical make cameos as pop duo Karmin. Annoying Orange plays Felix Baumgartner of the Red Bull Stratos jump, and so on and so forth. Also appearing: Mars Curiosity, AlphaCat, Freddie Wong and Rhett & Link's "Dope Zebra."

For good measure, you can scroll your mouse over the screen during playback to find hidden links to another 21 Easter egg videos—especially, for example, if you want to watch over and over again Psy wrecking the guitar of band Walk Off the Earth, stopping them from doing to his hit what they did, with such great success, to Gotye's.

In short, the clip is specially tailored to play to the archetype of the modern entertainment junkie. If Google's "Zeitgeist 2012" video from last week was a not-particularly-nutritious dinner, then YouTube's "Rewind" is a ridiculously rich dessert, if one that's appropriate for a zeitgeist that celebrates an odd mix of raw talent and over-the-top presentation. It's also, notably, an original production—rather than just a montage of already-existing footage—which plays up the company's hard drive this year into bankrolling professionally produced content and the launch of its own production studio.

The message that "Rewind" forces into relief with a fair amount of success: YouTube is at the center of all things pop culture, it gets the new audience and their humor, it's friends with the popular kids on the playground, it's having a great time, and it's going for gangbusters.

Whether it's mistaking excess for success is a different question altogether.